Hawaii or Hong Kong?

Big_wave_tai_long_wan

Big_wave_tai_long_wan

There are few places in Hong Kong as remote or as beautiful as Tai Long Wan beach in Sai Kung. How remote are we talking? Depending on which phone company you have, your mobile phone might start roaming to China!

For city dwellers, the first thing that strikes you is the view. Rarely in Hong Kong can you survey such a wide swath of land without a building in sight. In fact, arriving at Tai Long Wan (also known as Big Wave Bay,) there are no signs of civilization at all.

Getting to Tai Long Wan is time consuming, but worth the effort

Even by the fastest method – private boat, it’s still around 45 minutes from Sai Kung pier. Rental boats normally won’t take you to Tai Long Wan because the greater distance means more gas, so the destination and price would need to be agreed upon beforehand.

Last Sunday I opted for a cheaper way of getting there – by hiking. (See the detailed instructions below on how to get there and back.)

The journey to the beach is rewarding in and of itself. Along the way you are treated to stunning scenery of the High Island Reservoir and later to several beaches leading up to Tai Long Wan (Sai Wan and Ham Tin Wan.)

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The mostly downhill hike is manageable by beginning hikers in decent shape. At a casual rate it takes around an hour and a half to reach Tai Long Wan.

The scenic path takes you alongside mountains, descending downwards towards the beach.

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I would advise you to bring all your own drinks and food, however, along the way there are a few small restaurants. (Treat these only as a backup since the places are open erratically.)

You can stop at one of the easier to reach beaches, but going the extra distance to Tai Long Wan is worth it. Tai Long Wan has certain characteristics that make it superior: a long, clean beach; potentially big waves for surfing or body boarding; clear water that you can wade in far away from shore; untouched mountains; and extras, like a herd of cows that seem to congregate on the far end of the beach.

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Tips for getting there and back

I’ve only visited Tai Long Wan on a Sunday, when the transportation schedules are actually more frequent. Taking this hike on a week day will definitely limit your options.

There are various forms of public transportation you can use to get to the start of the hike. To get to Sai Kung you can take the bus, a combination of MTR and mini-bus, or taxi. It’s around $200 HKD by cab from Central to Sai Kung town, taking the more expensive, but faster, Eastern tunnel.

Once you arrive in Sai Kung town, the starting point of the trip is just in front of McDonald’s off of the main road, on Chan Man Street. Here you will see a sign post for the 29R, a special, larger-sized minibus, with a white and blue color scheme.

Take the 29R to the last stop – Sai Wan Pavilion, which is basically in the middle of nowhere! It’s a ride along a winding road that has a great view of the reservoir. The mini-bus costs $15 HKD and accepts Octopus cards. I’ve never taken a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion, but apparently the fee is around $85 HKD. (Get a phone number from the taxi driver in case you want to take a taxi back if you plan to return via Sai Wan Pavilion.)

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Remember that you are going to a hard to reach area and there are no roads. Only travel as far as you think you can go and return safely.

Following the trail to Tai Long Wan is easy. There aren’t many forks, and you just hug the coastline. When you get to the end of Ham Tin Wan beach you will see a restaurant and building at the very end. Go to the furthest point and you will see a short hill to climb to continue along the trail. (You’re very close at this point!)

Returning you have several options – go the same way you came via Sai Wan Pavilion (make sure there will be transportation to Sai Kung Town once you get there!); go over the hill to Chek Keng and pay for a speed boat ride to Wong Shek pier (this will save you from part of the hike at the end of the day); or hike over to Chek Keng and then continue onwards along the same path to Pak Tam Au where you can catch a taxi, bus or mini-bus to Sai Kung town.

When you’re on Tai Long Wan beach it’s a little bit tricky to depart. First you need to find the path that leads out to Chek Keng and Pak Tam Au. Start by walking away from the water, near where the beach ends and the plants begin to grow. Heading in the direction away from Sai Wan, towards the end of the beach, you will see a brown dumpster. In back of this dumpster is the start of a small foot path that leads into the village in back of (but invisible from,) the beach.

This time around it seems that new paths have been added. There was also a sign to Chek Keng, but I opted for the route I’ve tried before that definitely works!

At a place where it seems to fork off to the right, instead go straight, or bear to your left. This will take you into the village. At the start of the village you will encounter a sharp right turn. Just a few steps from here you will see a sign pointing to Pak Tam Au. Taking this right, you will soon be on a paved path leading up and over the hill.

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Once you continue up the hill you will be below Sharp’s Peak. Continue along the paved trail and it will lead down to Chek Keng where you will see people in speed boats waiting to pick you up and drop you off at Wong Shek – for a fee!

I usually ignore the speedboats and hike the whole way to Pak Tam Au, but perhaps it’s worth taking the speedboat for a shortcut and a cheap thrill. (I don’t remember exactly how much they charge, but I believe it’s around $60 HKD for a one way ride.) This will probably shave around 30 minutes from your return trip.

Make sure you leave with plenty of time before night fall as it would be extremely difficult to find your way back in the dark and all public transportation may be finished for the day!

It’s a good idea to take some mosquito repellent if you plan on hiking back in either direction!

WARNING: Last Sunday I was shocked to find two hypodermic needles on the beaches prior to Tai Long Wan. This totally disgusted me. It means that a company hired to dispose of infectious hospital waste is instead putting it on a barge and dumping the garbage into the sea! Though Tai Long Wan beach was exceptionally clean, please use caution on all of the beaches!

I’ve written about Tai Long Wan beach before (quite eloquently, I might add!) For more photos, check out my previous posts here and here.

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11 Comments

  • OH MY GOD I cant believe that about the needles. To think we swim there all summer long.

    Great post and I love your pic of the cows! When my best friend comes to HK she wants to go to Tai Long Wan so I will be showing her your info!

  • Hi A!

    Actually, the needles were not on Tai Long Wan beach, but on the other two beaches, Sai Wan and Ham Tin Wan. It’s still sad and disgusting to see! There was a kid playing on the beach near one of them! If you see two, there must be MANY more, that’s what’s so scary.

  • Great post!

    Refreshing to see the other side of HK

    i”m very sure there is a safe way to dispose these waste materials..hope they act on it because it is such a waste to spoil these beaches

  • I went hiking there a few years ago with a group of friends. It was summertime and the weather was extremely hot. Good thing we brought enough bottles of water. One of us almost passed out because of heat exhaustion. Overall, it is not an easy hike in hot temperature but the view is well worth it. Good pics.

  • Yes, you definitely need to know how much water to bring. You should over-estimate. It’s also hard to bring enough water to hike anywhere in Hong Kong during the Summer months. It’s dangerously hot for long hikes.

  • Last time I was in Tai Long Wan I watched aghast as a man dug a big hole in the beach and tipped a load of rubbish into it. Shocking.

  • Hi,

    Is it possible to rent a car from Central and drive to the beach ?

    Thank you.

    Kind regards

    MF

  • Hi Meyer,

    It’s not possible to drive to Big Wave Bay in Sai Kung, but it is possible to drive to Big Wave Bay in Shek O, which is on Hong Kong Island. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car for this purpose though. It’s much easier and less hassle to just take a taxi, or hire a van if you have surf boards etc. to take with you. I don’t know if car rentals are available from Central. I doubt it, as having to store them in Central would be extremely expensive.

  • How easy would you rate the hike? And the duration? I’m an amateur hiker, fitness enthusiast, just want to make sure I can complete it without dying.

    I run around a 4:40 min per km in a 5km run, to give an average cardio level. 23 year old.

  • Hi Kenton,

    If you’re already a runner you should have no problem with the hike. The length of the hike depends on which angle you approach from, and if you take the sampan to the starting point from the ferry pier, or hike in. The major problem with this hike at this time of year is the hot weather. You MUST bring lots of water with you, as you are in the middle of nowhere for part of the hike, and can’t rely on being able to get bottled drinks, except at a few of the beaches – Sai Wan, and Ham Tin. Tai Long Wan village might have a place or two selling drinks, but the main beach has nothing to offer. Check out some of the hiking websites for more details. Enjoy! 🙂

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